…….an essential part of the Vistas in Education program.

By living as a family member in a French home, American students discover the rewards of putting their language study to practical use. They gain insight into everyday French culture, sample new foods, participate in shopping, sports, family activities and more while having the opportunity to socialize with French teenagers and make new friends.

VIE host families are found by professional family stay organizers through their educational field contacts, usually French teachers of English. Each host family completes an application which is returned to VIE who then conduct telephone interviews with each potential host family to determine if they can provide a suitable placement for an American student.

Families who participate in the LA VIE EN FAMILLE program do so because they are interested in meeting an American student, learning about American culture and showing students French hospitality and family life. The French families are not paid or reimbursed by VIE and are chosen for their expressed desire to take part in this intercultural experience.

LA VIE EN FAMILLE family stay coordinators match American students and French host families according to age, compatibility of interests and language ability. Although this matching process involves pairing people of different personalities and backgrounds, our family stay coordinators are well-experienced in arranging successful placements. Year after year, students continue to report positive results from their family stay experiences.

American students are first asked to complete a LA VIE EN FAMILLE application and write a “Chère Famille” letter in French to help both the family stay coordinator and their host families know them better.

Fully vetted Host families selected for the program attend an orientation where the family coordinator has a chance to meet them in person and confirm expectations of the program. At the meeting, host families receive the LA VIE EN FAMILLE application and the “Chère Famille” letter of the American student selected for them.

On the LA VIE EN FAMILLE application, each American student indicates his or her preference for being hosted by either a male or a female. This request must be confirmed by a parent’s signature. VIE does its best to honor the request and will contact the student in the event that this request cannot be fulfilled. Before finalizing a placement of a student with a host of the opposite sex, the family stay coordinator confirms with the French family that they are willing and able to accommodate such a placement.

Any student who is interested in spending their family stay with someone he or she already knows in France should speak to the Organizing Teacher about this option. Students will be responsible for making all of their own arrangements with the family, including all transportation to and from their home. Students will then need to return the Own Family Release Form and Proof of Invitation to VIE to confirm that their parents and the French family have made all the necessary arrangements and that they do not need VIE to find them a host family.

According to our policy and belief, VIE only places one American student in a French home in order to facilitate integration into the family and their daily routine. This linguistic and cultural immersion is the heart of the experience that VIE works to provide for each American student. During the family stay, there are no activities planned for the American school group as a whole so that each student can be fully involved in their host family’s daily life.

Although LA VIE EN FAMILLE applications and “Chère famille” letters are submitted to VIE several months before the group’s departure, a great deal of work and many administrative steps both in the U.S. and in France precede the delivery of these materials to the host family. The list of family stay placements for the group is received by our office in the U.S. about two weeks before the group’s departure and is immediately communicated to the Organizing Teacher so that information can be distributed to students. However, host families sometimes contact their American student before this placement information arrives in our U.S. office.

If a student does not hear from his or her family before departure, they should not worry! They will have a host family. Depending on the French school calendar, the host families are often on vacation during the weeks before the American student’s arrival and may not be readily available to contact their student.

Students will receive the name, address, telephone number, and email address, if available, of their French family before their departures. They will also know the age of their French host sister or brother, the ages of other children in the family and the professions of the parents. As soon as students have this information, we strongly recommend that they write a short letter or email thanking the family for inviting them into their home. The family will be eager to hear from their American student as well!

Should any problems arise, students can contact the family stay organizer, the VIE office or their Organizing Teacher. Students will be given all necessary contact information before departure from the U.S. Our bilingual staff in France is available to provide support whenever necessary and there are backup families available in the event that a change needs to be made. However, it is essential that students understand that VIE cannot help with a situation unless we are made aware of the problem. It is the student’s responsibility to let someone in France know if their stay in a French family is not going well.

Family stays are designed to take place while school is in session, so most American students will have the chance to visit a French school during their stay. All family stays are also arranged to extend over a weekend to allow the whole family to spend time with their American student.

This experience is intended to give American students a taste of daily life in France. Students should not expect their host family to act as a personal tour guide, but should instead be open to experiencing their hosts’ everyday routine along with any special events or visits that the family plans during the student’s stay.

At the end of the family stay, there are embraces, tears, smiles and often invitations to return or to come to the United States. In many cases, this one week stay becomes a lasting friendship. Our students and teachers alike testify that it is an experience to be remembered always and a step towards personal growth and greater cultural awareness.